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Thread: Tri Flow; Pros and Cons

  1. #1
    Senior Member Cecilia S.'s Avatar
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    Tri Flow; Pros and Cons

    Tri Flow is mentioned so often, and was just mentioned in a separate thread; I thought I would start a discussion here.

    At the risk of being unpopular, I want to say that I am not nearly as much a fan of Tri Flow as the rest of the group seems to be.

    I mentioned in a separate thread that I experienced Tri Flow removing the black finish from a 1924 Singer. Sheila chimed in with a really interesting post about banana oil, paint remover, etc. Sheila, if you want to add that here ont his thread, it might be helpful to have it in this discussion!

    I also experimented with using Tri Flow on the keys and rods of a musical instrument, where sewing machine oil is normally used. After three weeks, the Tri Flow had gone dry, gunky, and appeared to leave residue. The keys were much noisier and less free-moving than when they are simply treated with sewing machine oil.

    I generally believe in using the simplest solution for a given problem, (Occam's Razor!) and while I will say that Tri Flow was valuable in helping me free up an absolutely seized presser foot bar, I find that often, sewing machine oil alone is enough to free lightly-moderately seized parts, lightly rusted parts.

    I realize that I am a novice yet, and many here are seasoned tinkerers, so I don't mean to speak out of turn. However, blanket advice is often given to give a Tri Flow spa to any newly-acquired creaky sewing machine. I would say that I disagree with this; I would personally give a sewing machine oil spa first, and then, if there are any truly seized parts, there I would consider Tri Flow, sparingly and carefully.

    I personally do not understand what the Three (Tri) ingredients are; Teflon is one, and thusfar there seem to be differing opinions as to the other two. All discussion is welcome! Would love to hear it.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    I just use the sewing machine oil that came with my machine and I purchased some Singer all purpose oil from the LQS. I've never used TRI-FLOW.

  3. #3
    Super Member SteveH's Avatar
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    First off, I will say I am a big fan of Tri-Flow.
    I am also a big fan of SM Oil.

    I use Oil to clean, TF to lubricate.

    I am curious about the "dry gunky residue" you discussed. What color? I suspect that the TF is removing/breaking down old Oil still. TF should be mostly clear or whitish when dry.

    Open to other views, love to hear dissenting opinions.

  4. #4
    Super Member SewExtremeSeams's Avatar
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    Jumping in for the discussion. I do not have an opinion... as yet... lol

    Linda

    Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.
    [John Newton (1725-1807)]

    http://sewextremeseams.blogspot.com/

  5. #5
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Sounds like Triflow dissolved some of the old junk that was already there and you just need to clean it. Triflow is by far the most amazing stuff.

  6. #6
    Super Member oldsewnsew's Avatar
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    would be awful if years from, people are writing of how terribly gummed up sewing machines are that had TF used on them back in the "old days". I'm somewhat gullible to marketing hype on snake oils. My OSMG says back in the old days they mixed alcohol and sewing machine oil 50-50 to use on wipie downs. (alcohol will silver decals by itself so test this some place you don't care)

  7. #7
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    I find it strange when folks use a good product then denigrate it when it does it's job. Tri-Flow oil has solvents it it. It also has PTFE in it. The solvents will dissolve the old oils but you have to clean the residue off then reoil the parts. The combination of dissolving the old lube and the PTFE might be the residue left behind.

    I use regular SM oil in the motors. I use Tri-Flow every where else. I have used it on 100 year old machines all the way up to machines made in the 90s and have yet to see any evidence of paint removal.

    I don't have any musical instruments to use it on, but I do have a couple of vintage mechanical and one electric typewriters I'm going to use it on. I expect the typewriters will work much better afterwards.

    The ONLY con I find with Tri-Flow is you shouldn't use their grease in Singer motors. What makes it great on gears is the same thing that makes it unsuitable in motors.

    Joe

  8. #8
    Senior Member Vridar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oldsewnsew View Post
    (alcohol will silver decals by itself so test this some place you don't care)
    I'm also new to sewing machines, but not new to tinkering. Watches, cameras, guns, cars are a few of my previous interests. However, I do have many hours of college chemistry and am a fan of Bob Flexner's Understanding Wood Finishing. I have deduced Japaning of Singers is done with shellac. Shellac was and is used on antique furniture. It is the main force in French Polishing. From previous posts I have concluded shellac is used as the "clear coat" of vintage machines. Alcohol, any form, is used to dissolve shellac and will do so effectively. This means if Singers are Japaned with shellac and alcohol is used to clean them, the alcohol will dissolve the "clear coat." If the finish is thick enough decals probably would be undamaged, but once the shellac is dissolved and the decals exposed to the alcohol, they will be silvered, no two ways about it. Alcohol will not touch any of my vintage Singers for this reason.

    My process is to use the least volatile solvent for the job. The sequence would be water (on non-exposed metals)/oil/kerosene/mineral spirits/alcohol/acetone/naphtha. To date I've not had to use more volatile than the in my tinkering with sewing machines.

    Caveat: I'm using volatility as a measurement of ability to dissolve other hydrocarbons. This is not exactly accurate but a good indicator.
    Last edited by Vridar; 10-01-2013 at 09:03 AM. Reason: spelling correction and caveat
    Ron in NW MO

  9. #9
    Senior Member cmrenno's Avatar
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    I recommend Tri Flow as a lubricant. I have a 1915 singer 15-30 treadle that sold me on the stuff. I carefully cleaned it and at first I used regular sewing machine oil. I thought I had done a great job. My husband teased me that his grandmother could go a whole lot fast. I then oiled with Tri Flow and things really broke free! what a difference!!!!!!!!!!!

    Colleen

  10. #10
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    Colleen,

    That's also what sold me on it. I cleaned a machine, oiled it with regular sewing machine oil, then later tried T-F and the difference was amazing. I switched between T-F and SM oil for a while testing it and in the end, I've settled on T-F.

    Joe

  11. #11
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    I am new with tinkering but I am rapidly gaining machines and having lots of fun. I was advised here to use TriFlow on a 401a I did not think would've ever budged and by golly, it's a work maven now. TriFlow has put the "sing" in my Singers.

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    I came tonight to ask a question and found the perfect post already in action.

    I went to the shop (bicycle) to buy my first bottle of tri-flow. All they had was a soy based version. The man said all the properties are the same. The only difference is it is soy based...meaning it is a renewable resource, biodegradable, etc.

    Did I mess up buying the soy version??

  13. #13
    Senior Member Cecilia S.'s Avatar
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    Suze, I have no idea! But, so far, I am certainly enjoying hearing everyone's responses! I like it that we all have different experiences and can share and learn and even change our minds from time to time. And hey, if your LiquidTofu works, I will be keen to hear about it! :-)

    What is the brand name of your LiquidTofu?

  14. #14
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    I think I have tried all kinds of oil. One of the worst machines I worked on was an old Singer 401G. I used 3-in-1 oil on it. Initially it worked. Then it set for a few weeks. The machine acted like it was encased in concrete. I think I tried everything to get the 3-in-1 oil off. Maybe it was a combination of the 3-in-1 oil and the dried up SM oil. I believe I tried kerosene with some success but I wasn't happy with the results. I heard of Tri-flow and Kroil but I couldn't find it locally. I had a couple really stuck machines and used kerosene or brake cleaner or xylenol to get the old gunk off, then re-oiled with SM oil. It was a lot of work. Then I found T-F at sew-classic. I had a machine that was pretty much frozen up. http://www.quiltingboard.com/vintage...r-t169127.html In a matter of minutes we had it unfrozen. I experimented with the T-F after that. I used it on the 401G and let it set for about a year. At first it was a little stuck but then it was right back to where it should be. I'm thinking the teflon is just like the stuff on your cook ware - I won't use it for that because it doesn't stick to the metal. I don't see any long term setting up from the T-F but I do from stuff like 3-in-1 oil and SM oil - lots of paraffin in it. I think it is the machines setting around that freezes them up. Use the machines. Turn them once in a while. You can always oil a machine with SM oil and another with T-F and see what you like best. For me, I'm liking the ease that they turn when the T-F is used. PS I agree with Joe.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.

  15. #15
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by miriam View Post
    At first it was a little stuck but then it was right back to where it should be. I'm thinking the teflon is just like the stuff on your cook ware - I won't use it for that because it doesn't stick to the metal.
    Huh???? I sure hope no one plans on cooking with Tri-flow. LOL.

  16. #16
    Super Member amcatanzaro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Candace View Post
    Huh???? I sure hope no one plans on cooking with Tri-flow. LOL.
    The eggs slide right off!
    Anastasia - I like to sew square things.

  17. #17
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    yeah right.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.

  18. #18
    Super Member SteveH's Avatar
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    I think one of the good things this thread is doing is to let folks see that there is no such thing as "the one true way"

    Some materials work better for some machines and some conditions. Experimenting yourself to understand after reading the cautions here is really the best way to decide what works for you.

    I am currently trying to track down a bottle of actual old oil, as advertised "the best sperm whale oil" I want to see if there is a difference in motions. Remember that the early machines were designed with that in mind.

    Oh, and until I get a chance to pick up some wadding cloth to try, Brasso is my current defacto goto cleaner for metal. (NOTE: it EATS paint and decals if you are not careful)

  19. #19
    Senior Member Vridar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveH View Post
    I am currently trying to track down a bottle of actual old oil, as advertised "the best sperm whale oil" I want to see if there is a difference in motions. Remember that the early machines were designed with that in mind.
    It would be interesting to know if any old jewelers (are there any around?) might have some.
    Ron in NW MO

  20. #20
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    Glenn uses clock oil or whale oil - pricy. He doesn't like T-F.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Vridar's Avatar
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    I would be interested knowing why Tri-Flow is better than other solvents dissolving paraffin and other hydrocarbon based lubricants than, let's say kerosene. A post in another thread mentioned the contents and I saw nothing better than the normal solvents. Does the Teflon have something to do with it? I can understand T-F, i.e., Teflon, being a good lubricant, but a solvent? May be.
    Ron in NW MO

  22. #22
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    I don't know why but the stuff works most of the time. Saves me hours.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.

  23. #23
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    I've used kerosene to clean machines and it works to an extent. But as a lubricant it falls very short. The thing about T-F is it is a lubricant that has solvents in it. Not a solvent that can be used as a lubricant, maybe.

    Think of it like this; the motor oil you put in your car's engine has solvents and detergents in it to keep the insides of the engine clean. You change it periodically to keep the engine running at peak efficiency. This is the same idea with T-F and sewing machines.

    Joe

  24. #24
    Super Member SteveH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vridar View Post
    It would be interesting to know if any old jewelers (are there any around?) might have some.
    NOTE: IT is ILLEGAL to sell (or possess) whale oil REGARDLESS of when it was made... yikes....

    "The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration charged a resident of Lincroft, N.J., with four counts of selling or attempting to sell sperm whale oil over eBay’s online auction site, in violation of the Endangered Species Act. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department.
    NOAA’s Office of General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation assessed a $2,000 penalty against Alan Troshane for the infraction, which took place between March and April 2000. Troshane found the sperm whale oil in the basement of the school where he worked and advertised the whale oil for sale on the Internet-based auction site for $40 per ounce.
    During the course of an investigation by NOAA’s Office for Law Enforcement, Troshane admitted the violation and subsequently paid the penalty.
    Sperm whales are listed under the Endangered Species Act. The act governs the taking, possession, transportation, sale, purchase, barter, exportation, importation of, and other requirements pertaining to wildlife and plants determined to be threatened or endangered.
    NOAA is one of the federal agencies enforcing the regulations under the ESA that make selling or offering to sell endangered species parts or products illegal. "

  25. #25
    Senior Member Vridar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveH View Post
    NOTE: IT is ILLEGAL to sell (or possess) whale oil REGARDLESS of when it was made... yikes....
    I guess that answers that question. Glad you didn't find any.
    Ron in NW MO

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